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Truth in a bumper sticker

When I was a kid one thing I wanted the most was to be grown up. I couldn’t wait. It didn’t matter what I was to do as a career, I just wanted to be all grown up. I am sure that most kids think about being a grown up. How can you help it?

Grown ups get to do all the cool stuff. They drive cars and trucks. They have money to buys things. They don’t have to go to school but get to go to cool jobs and have fun when they want.

As a child, what you don’t understand is that all of that comes with great responsibility and stress.

How many nights have I stayed awake worrying about an issue in our household? Whether it was financial, educational or behavioral — it brought me stress and I had to figure out how to fix it.

A child sees grown ups with rose colored glasses on and it all seems safe and fun. Life isn’t always beautiful. It can be down right messy.

The most surprising thing that I have found out as I journey through the world of adulthood, is watching those strong adults that I admired as a child grow old. I had never thought about that being part of my adult experience.

So many of my teachers who I thought would live forever are now retired and some even passed on. Church friends, neighbors and family members have grown older as time has marched on. It is like time is plucking all these influential adults out of my life.

What happens when there is no one left to admire? What will I do when I stand alone? What happens when I become the adult, like the ones I have watched stand strong like a tree in life only to wither into the abyss? The scary thing is that one day I will be withering away as well.

I hate to see the adults in my life grow old. It gives me an unsteady feeling but the circle of life keeps moving and it will happen to us all one day.

At some point in our lives we have to accept that it is our turn to take care of the people who took care of us. How it hurts my heart that this job will come before me one day. I will accept the challenge for people whom I love so dearly and do it to the best of my ability.

I imagine that this life challenge will be harder than raising my son. When you raise a child you do it your way and they learn from it and mold into your life. I would think caring for a parent or grandparent is more challenging because the roles of your relationship have to change. In fact, they almost reverse. That causes great anxiety to everyone involved.

No more can that parent be totally in charge. It hurts their pride to think that they need help and can’t do the things they used to. I believe that is why older people can be grouchy. They feel they are losing their independence.

It hurts the caregiver as well because it is painful to take that independence away from someone. No one wants to see someone who once stood tall, was fun and active become old, sick and needy. Taking that away from a person is not something I would ever want to do but I guess it might be something I will have to do one day, hopefully a long time from now.

I just hope that I can do it as well as I have seen others do it. My mother and uncle did all they could for my grandparents. They did it with respect, compassion and a little bit of humor all while trying not to take away to much independence. Together they gave their parents the gift of unconditional love. The kind of love they received as babies and children.

Thinking about all of this, it is kind of true what that old bumper sticker says, “Be good to your children, they pick out your nursing home.” After the humor of that settles down, the truth of the matter is we will treat them as well as they treated us. After all, we all learned to love from the adults who came before us.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Delta State University: Investing in our Academic Future

The continued cuts to state funding for public universities in Mississippi present a significant challenge that is felt not only at the university level, but also across the entire state.

Each of the eight public four year universities has a considerable investment in our students, businesses, employees, communities, outreach efforts, and research projects—all of which ripple out to impact the state's economy and future. All of us as citizens of Mississippi are affected directly or indirectly by higher education outcomes, sometimes in ways we don't even realize.

Mississippi Today recently reported that between fiscal years 2010 and 2017, state university funding has declined 4.5 percent, and general funding for IHL has declined more than 7 percent. During that same time, system-wide enrollment has increased more than 12 percent, and the number of degrees awarded in this state has increased nearly 14 percent.  The hardest hit budgets have been the universities' operating budgets that provide funding for maintaining campus operations and paying the salaries of the faculty and staff who educate our students.

State funding is necessary to supplement tuition and other revenue for our universities that, collectively, are one of the best higher education bargains in the country, and which boast reasonable tuition rates that other states and universities envy.

To support the vision of a new Mississippi, the most appropriate view of higher education expenditures by the state is not simply that of an expense item in the budget. It is much more essentially an investment—in our students, in our state, and in our future.

Like our sister public institutions, Delta State manages scarce resources in an environment of competing priorities every day. We strategically focus our attention and spending on programs, initiatives, and educational offerings that bring value to our students and to the state. And, we rely basically on state funding and student tuition to provide the revenue necessary to accomplish our mission. Some ask, ‘How can we measure the outcomes and the return on our investment?’  The answer is in the products we produce—prepared students who are ready to enter the professions and workforce across the state.  All of our state universities are working hard every day to meet that goal through prudent allocation of resources.

One example of smart, targeted spending that produces terrific outcomes at Delta State is our emphasis on improved retention—helping our students stay in school and on the path to graduation.  Between the fall of 2015 and the fall of 2016, we experienced significant increases in retention rates for first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen—5.2 percent; first time, full-time, degree-seeking transfer students—7.8 percent; and, all full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students—3.7 percent. Simply put, this means more students stayed in school and on the path to graduation—and on the path to being more productive, employable citizens of our state.

But, the retention programs that produce this success cost money. Better said, they beg for our investment of dollars to support a program that will help Mississippi get off the bottom rung of American educational and economic metrics.  We are being asked by the state to continue doing this good work—to continue producing more and better-educated students—with fewer and fewer resources. By any measure, that is an unsustainable pattern.

Here at Delta State University, as at all our public universities, we believe in putting students first, and that quality education should be available to all qualified students in this state. We offer the lowest tuition in the region, and we make the most of our limited resources, while still providing a top-tier education for our students.  But, as long as state funding is severely limited or cut, this model of success will be undermined.

Just as our eight public universities merit the investment of Mississippi tax dollars to support our educational mission, our students individually also need financial assistance to enroll and stay in school.  State research data show that 89 percent of our eligible full-time, degree-seeking students, both undergraduate and graduate, received some form of financial aid during the 2015-16 academic year. These deserving students need our support to help them earn a college degree—a tangible outcome that serves the best interests of our state on so many   levels.

In the rural Delta of Mississippi, Delta State is seen as a beacon of opportunity in a place where opportunity is sometimes lacking. In the fall of 2016, for example, 25 percent of our student body comprised first-generation students. This number is clearly indicative of the urgent need for, and value of, higher education in the Magnolia State. When we educate that first? generation student, we are lifting up an entire family.

Continuing to cut state funding for higher education puts statewide efforts for student success at dire risk. Future cuts will only produce a steeper uphill battle in the fight to lift this state off the economic bottom. We cannot continue to be expected to produce more graduates, continue our outreach efforts in our communities, and fund vital research with fewer resources.

Let's continue to educate Mississippians and to make this state a better place to live, work, prosper, and raise our families. Enhanced state funding for higher education—not more budget cuts—is the key to a brighter future for this state.

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Trippin’ for education

As I grew up in this little town we all love, I had the opportunity to have some great adventures. Some of which I never had to leave the county. I enjoyed them all, especially since it got me out of regular class but now I see the value of each and every trip.

In elementary, we went to some public library exhibits, which were always educational and fun. But the one visit to the library that sticks out the most is when we were being taught about archiving and the microfilm machine. It was interesting to know how newspapers were put on microfilm to preserve the information for generations to come. Thinking about it now, even with changing technology, I am glad I learned about that aspect of archiving. You never know when you might need that information.

I remember going to someone’s home in Cleveland and learning about polishing rocks. We had been to the Petrified Forest in Flora but found a rock guy in our own backyard. He showed us all different types of rocks some that come from here and others from far away. He showed us the process of taking raw rocks that seemed ordinary and boring and polishing them to become one of kind, shiny and beautiful. What a great learning experience that was.

Back in the day, before we had a train museum, kids went to see the model trains at Mr. Wiggins home. He had a big room off his carport that was his train room. He loved to show us his trains and loved to tell us the story of how his collection grew. He could tell us about each piece and how they intertwined with Cleveland’s railroad history. What a treasure he was!

Not only did we not have a train museum but we didn’t have the Bologna Performing Arts Center and we certainly didn’t have the programs that they provided. Instead there was a company that developed plays and shows that circulated through the schools. They were fun and gave us a peek into some of the performing arts that a lot of us would not have seen any other way.

Of course there were the usual trips to the zoo and to Mud Island where you could learn about the Mississippi River. Seems like we got in trouble on that trip because we jumped and played in the miniature river and Gulf of Mexico. We all got called to the principal’s office the next day — but, man, it was fun. I am sure Mr. Kitchings didn’t find it fun.

As I got older the school trips got fewer and further between. In fact I don’t remember any during junior high but there were a few in high school.

I have a distinct memory of walking to the courthouse from school during Coach Powe’s class. He took all the 18-year-olds to register to vote. I was so excited, what a grown up, American thing to do. Well, even though I was proud to do that, that wasn’t the only reason, the trip was so memorable. Coach also took us to tour the jail. We went in, and it was a dismal place. No color, low lights with mostly concrete. The air was quite still and then I heard that jolly Coach Powe laugh. He called my name and said come on in. He was in a jail cell and called me to join him. I walked in and before I could turn around he was out and had shut the cell door. This was so not funny and it really drove the point home that jail isn’t a place I wanted to be. It was scary. Eventually after some whining and sweet talk he let me out but not without more laughter and a good ole bear hug. He got a big charge from that.

Lastly there were trips to Delta State’s Art Department. In high school, Pat Brown, my art teacher took us to see different exhibits and we even got to talk to some of the faculty. I loved art and she made it all seem so attainable. I was no stranger to the department itself from going to kid’s classes during the summers but this was a whole new level. It was like those trips opened my eyes to what I wanted to achieve as an adult. Closer to graduation she took us over there to show some of the faculty our work from the year. It was nerve racking but exciting to hear what “real” artists thought.

As a 46-year-old adult, all of these trips in town and out of town now stick in my memory. They helped me to become a well-rounded person and to enjoy the small adventures in life. They opened doors to attain what I wanted to as a young adult.

We all should put great value on the field trips our kids have. They have so many more avenues to venture down; so many more doors to be opened for them. How blessed we are to have so many educational businesses, museums and programs in Cleveland. The best thing we can do is let our children engage their minds and hearts in them.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Touchdown for life

Time marched from my birthday on Saturday to the Super Bowl on Sunday, which turned out to be a great game. I don’t really get into football, so for me it is an event—one of my two yearly football games, the Super Bowl and the Egg Bowl.

For a lot of people the day is a holiday filled with camaraderie, food and of football. Some people drink, others just eat but I was at home straightening up during commercials. Then when I did sit down, I sat down to a bowl of Frosted Flakes and the end of the game.

It was enjoyable to watch since I had no loyalty to either team so my stress level stayed very low. I simply got to be happy with the entertainment it provided.

This column today has begun like a sports column, but I am not qualified to write one especially since I am not a sports type of person and certainly do not know the ins and outs of football. Instead this is just the lead into a column about good and loyal people.

There are so many good people who make up successful teams like the teams in Super Bowl LI. Tom Brady, who has had a career like a football fairytale. He helped propel his team from a losing score of 3 to the final winning score of 34 in overtime. As many accolades as Brady has been given he will tell you he didn’t do it alone. He credits his teammates, coaches and his family for their support.

He was a leader who gave the team inspiration that led them to work together to accomplish the same goal. I by no means am saying Brady is some sort of saint. Everyone makes mistakes in life but it is the way you learn and move forward from it that makes you a better person. I am sure that all his teammates feel that from him and they give it right back by bonding together to be a great team.

I have seen this in a local team as well. John Thomas Aycock, a senior broke his arm during a game towards the end of the basketball season at his local high school. I know that kid was devastated that he wouldn’t be able to continue to play a sport he loves especially during his senior year of high school.

His teammates didn’t just console him and move on with their season. No, they rallied around him and have been wearing shirts that say, “#DOITFOR42.” What great teammates he has! What great people these are! What could have been a blemish on John Thomas’ senior basketball season now has a great light shining on it.

We see this kind of loyalty and support in our community all the time. People rally around those who have problems, sickness and deaths in their families. The support comes in many forms but the sentiment is the same. It travels from one person to the next to show that when people love and stand together anything can happen.

To me a good person has to be helpful to others in need. A good person naturally supports their friends, family and teams. As Father Kent said this weekend in his sermon, “It is just who they are.”

My hope is that this all continues and becomes contagious to others that haven’t given it a try. It is a lot easier to do, than to be the opposite. It gives you peace. It brings you comfort. It just makes you happier and makes your heart bigger.

Having a bigger heart is so appropriate since Tuesday is Valentine’s Day. That would be a great day to let go of whatever darkness is holding on to you and let your heart grow. It would be so awesome if more people could join the great team of good people. Remember, I am saying good people, not perfect people. After all we are all human.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Letter to the Editor — February 13, 2017

Dear Editor,

State Senator Joseph M. Seymour from Vancleave is to be commended for filing the Senate Bill, SB 2057, flying the state flag of the Great State of Mississippi. Senator Seymour may not have gone far enough with the penalties. He could have asked that their state retirement have a 50 percent reduction.

The people who do not like our state flag could move to another state or another country.

I fly our State flag and our United States flag 24 hours a day. I have a streetlight that shines on both flags that are made of all weather materials. I love the State of Mississippi.

Johnny Gorrell

Sunflower County

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Everybody picks on the linemen

Had a call one day from an old high school football teammate, and in the course of the conversation, he made a quote that indirectly came from his wife, something about "dumb lineman." He didn't mean like climbing a light pole.

Pat and I played together on a pretty good Leland High team, and had a lot of fun growing up. After he hung up, I spent an hour with our old (there's that word again!) high school yearbook, and there was the same quote next to both our names: "Everybody picks on the linemen!" For the life of me, I can't recall where that quote came from, unless it was one of the coaches, but I do remember that we got a lot of mileage out of it.

It seemed to be a rule when we watched the game films on Monday that the only plays we saw were when we had missed a block or a tackle. "Neill, you let that Number 62 whip you again, boy!" At least, that was the rule for linemen. But seems like the replays of backs were: "See, now that's the way to run over a tackler, Dave!" Or, "Way to turn that corner, V-Shape!" Of course, the guy on the ground in that paused frame was the guard who had pulled and blocked the opposing defensive end, so V-Shape could get around him! Yet if that were noted, it would be as, "Neill, you can't just lay there, son! You got to get up and make another block downfield!" So what if there was a 230-pound end laying on you?

I went on to play at Ole Miss when the Rebels were Number One, back in the glory years. I was too small for a college lineman, even in those days when we were winning National Championships with guards weighing less than 200 pounds, who played both offense and defense back then. I played just over a year, and stayed hurt: separated shoulder, broken thumb, ruptured artery, ruptured hip joint that finally ended my playing days. Yet I was there, by gum, with a bunch of All-American linemen who pounded me into the ground during scrimmages.

But you know what people ask when the subject comes up? Not, "When did you play?" but, "Who was the quarterback when you played?"

Not once has anyone asked, "You played at Ole Miss? Who was the left tackle when you were up there?"

Matter of fact, we did have an extraordinary left tackle whilst I was there. On the day of the first freshman-redshirt scrimmage, this big blonde redshirt called all freshman linemen into the locker room, and seated us on the floor around a table, upon which was a helmet. "Watch this, boys," the tackle said. Then he poised with one elbow over the helmet: "Ready? Crash!!"

He brought his elbow down onto the helmet from a foot over it, and the headgear smashed into little bitty pieces. "Remember that, when you got to block me today!" the blonde tackle growled, and stalked out. He didn't get blocked much that day, nor the next three years he played, making All-American. The story was, he had polio as a child, and his elbow had been replaced with a steel elbow. I can't vouch for that story, but his demonstration was excellent!

So, what Pat and I learned in high school pretty well proved true in college and thereafter. Yet some of the finest folks I know are guards, tackles, and centers. A center that went on to become a doctor saved my life by finally diagnosing the Babesiosis anemia that accompanied my Lyme Disease, and curing it.

Oh, well, it was a team effort, and usually the quarterbacks don't go out seeking the glory, it's the media people who focus on them. If God had gifted Pat and me with accurate rifle arms and bodies unlike fireplugs, we'd have been quarterbacks, or split ends. But He didn't, and we blocked for the guys who ran and passed, congratulating them when they scored, or made a good play. In retrospect, I never played with a quarterback who wasn't a pretty quiet nice guy, off the field. And that was well before the days of modern “Hot Dogs.” If one of us had done a dance or beaten our chests to the crowds back then, we'd have “run the stadium” every afternoon for the next week! 

Hometown Teams! Seems like we were truly molded into real teams back then, both in high school and college.

And I never thought of it before now, but that prepared us well for the period right after college, when many of us were pressed into service for our country, fighting a real shooting war. A squad, or platoon, or landing party, in my case, was a team. We fought for each other, that we'd all come back safely, hopefully on the winning team.

This is part of the Smithsonian Institution's Hometown Teams Exhibit programming, funded by the MS Humanities Council. The views expressed are solely the Author's, and do not represent those of the MHC, NEH, DSU, or Smithsonian Institution. Friends may visit the exhibit until Nov. 11, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. To schedule tours or for more information, contact Archivist Emily Jones by calling 662-846-4781, or by e-mailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Is Santa in danger?

 

My house is adorned with its Christmas attire and it is warm and cozy feeling but throughout the world there is violence and tragedy that plaque the peacefulness of the season. Crawford apparently has been listening to David and I talk about the news and even has been paying attention to the network news.

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Don’t forget the reason

 

We’re nearing Christmas time, a holiday where the stores are packed every weekend. Everyone rushes franticly to get that gift they’ve been looking for. Some people are worried that each child gets the right amount of gifts — spending the same amount of money. Others are worried that they don’t forget anybody in the gift giving.

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